Replies to Lars, Tere, Rachel, Azra, Meron, Gayle, Lisa G, Stacey and Mimi.
You said it so well, how “it is stunning to think of a post-conflict ‘second-wave’ of ethnic cleansing.” They have been dreaming for FOUR YEARS to get to ‘post-conflict,’ and to think of that being just the start of another horrible wave is chilling. We must hold the world accountable. We have to find comprehensive solutions to problems like what is happening in Darfur. I cannot be just addressed as a Public Relations challenge. Thanks for your comment, my friend.
From my first visit, I have noticed the big absence of men in the camps, but, now that you mention it, I do believe that I see even less men this time. We have asked many of the women about this. They say that, as we know, men are killed during the initial attacks on the villages. Some men did make it out. Many of those men survivors are now going out of the camps to find more food and supplies for their families. They might even go back in Darfur to find a way to make an income, find animals, or other means to supplement the rations they get at the camps. The realization that years could keep rolling by must have settled in some time ago, and they, being as resilient as they are, go out and do what they can for a better life for their children.
I love the pictures also. We should and will set up an online gallery. I have so many more than the ones you’ve seen!
We did ask Adam about how or if the people at the camps celebrate their birthdays. He said that they celebrate the birthdays of the younger children but not for adults. Not everyone is let in to the celebrations. He said that only the important people are let in. So, it’s not unlike some of the Los Angeles parties! They eat and give gifts.
It is so nice to hear from you. The women have told us repeatedly that they would like more and better food. They get rations of grain, salt, sugar, oil, and other goods, depending on availability. They miss so much the flavor in their food, the spices, and the extras that they added in their land. They do not get any meats or milk, unless they find a way to make an income. What happens also is that they trade some of the grain they receive, and it is traded as a very devalued commodity, since they all have it and many do not like it. So, they get some vegetables or a little meat to add to their dishes, but they then end up with less food than needed for the month. Being out here, I am so aware of the amazing job that all the agencies do at keeping these people alive. The logistics of getting any kind of assistance out here are nightmarish and huge in its difficulty. The lack of security in the region has meant that some of the “extra-curricular” programs have been dropped at some of the camps. There needs to be protection for the refugees but also for all aid workers. One suggestion about where to give, the UNHCR has the huge task of managing all camps. As a way to give but then say connected and involved with the people you want to help, you can send a donation to USA for UNHCR. Please let them know that it is for the camps in Chad, and reference Stop Genocide Now. This way, we (i-ACT), will be able to show you the impact you help has. Also, people will feel more connected with the community in the camp. It will not just be giving. It will be sharing in both directions. Please stay in touch, Azra! You have a powerful story yourself, and you are an example of someone that embraces responsibility for the wellbeing of others, no matter where they are.
Hello Meron and Gayle:
I have seen some very strong, extremely strong, women here in this camp. Then, their strength is increased because they are so connected to each other. I am sure that you can relate to this :) Thank you for getting your families to meet the people of Darfur.
Hi Lisa G:
It has been great to see friends from our last visit, and they tell me to look at them and ask if I remember them. They know that it is not just me or the i-ACT team, that many that are very far away are also meeting them and care about them. I get the sense that they now know that we are not just stopping by, leaving, and then forgetting them. Even if not in person all the time, we (we= you, I, us) are here to stay until they return to a safe Darfur, and then we can still remain friends.
On your comment you say: “The loss of spontaneity and choice is a devastating psychological crime.” You are so right, and we have been talking about just this, us here on the i-ACT on-the-ground team. They are complete persons. They cannot be stripped of their personal and collective humanity when they become refugees. They have already lost so much. Let’s not forget (and I know that no one here forgets this) that the refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) are in those conditions due to an ongoing genocide. Genocide must be addressed in an immediate, comprehensive, and strong manner. It has to be more than just keeping people alive.
I’m with you also, mi Mimi hermosa. I’m glad you are not actually here in person with me at just this moment. We are getting another bug attack. I have not been bitten by any, but Connie got a couple of pretty good bites; I think three, actually. They’re not winning, though :) We keep working! Un beso, Mimi. Papi.